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Paradoxes from A to Z [Paperback]

By Michael Clark (Author)
Our Price $ 18.66  
Retail Value $ 21.95  
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Item Number 157632  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   232
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.68" Width: 5.56" Height: 0.68"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 10, 2002
Publisher   Routledge
ISBN  0415228093  
EAN  9780415228091  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This essential guide to paradoxes takes the reader on a lively tour of puzzles that have taxed thinkers from Zeno to Galileo and Lewis Carroll to Bertrand Russell. Michael Clark uncovers an array of conundrums, such as Achilles and the Tortoise, Theseus' Ship, Hempel's Raven, and the Prisoners' Dilemma, taking in subjects as diverse as knowledge, ethics, science, art and politics. Clark discusses each paradox in non-technical terms, considering its significance and looking at likely solutions. He also includes a full glossary.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An OK reference  Jun 26, 2007
Let me begin by saying that I am happy that I own this book. The price was right and I use it to look up paradoxes with which I am not familiar. That said, the treatment is brutally bad in spots, and does not convey a sense of the true recalcitrance of many of the paradoxes. As one example, take the first entry is the book, Achilles and the Tortoise. Clark seems to take the line that since we can sum infinite series, there is no more paradox:

"So the sequence of partial sums is 1/2, 3/4, 7/8,... It goes on for ever, getting closer and closer ('converging') to 1. In this case 1 is the limit, and so the sum, of the series. Achilles gradually closes in on the tortoise until he reaches it."

What? The "explanation" continues by simply explaining limits. This is inane hand waving. Worse still, Clark cites Salmon's excellent collection of articles on Zeno's paradoxes (of which Achilles and the Tortoise is one). A main theme of many of the articles in Salmon's book is that limits do NOT dissolve the paradox.

In the same entry as Achilles, Clark discusses Thomson's Lamp, where the dominant line taken today is that there is no spatio-temporal continuity through an infinite sequence of tasks. "But the description of the supertask entails nothing about the lamp's state at one minute..."

So be it. But then in "explaining" Achilles, Clark writes, "Why then is Achilles at the limit, 1? ... The answer is that, if he is anywhere, as surely he is- he must be at 1."

The problem is the "as surely he is." This echoes Thomson's own, "Surely the lamp must be on or off." If there is no (spatio-temporal) continuity through an infinite task, as was just explained to dissolve Thomson's Lamp, how is there continuity in the case of Achilles? Put differently, why does a limit process tell us about Achilles but not the Lamp? That Thomson's sequence (0,1,0,1...) i.e. (off, on, off, on...) does not have a limit is precisely his point.

There may be a response involving discrete versus continuous tasks, or some other explanation. But the reader is not told this. In general, my problem with the book is that the treatment is superficial and often presents the paradoxes as though they no longer present problems, when in fact they do. An intelligent reader may also be left bewildered by some of Clark's "explanations."

I wonder for whom this book is intended. I think that this book would make a terrible introduction to paradoxes, but may very well serve as a good reference book for those already acquainted with many of the paradoxes.
good for college bull sessions  Aug 6, 2004
24 short (1-3 page) treatments of various paradoxes. The main problem with this book is the unequal quality from one description to another. My best guess as to the target audience would be under graduate philosophy students.

'Gould, Escher and Bach' is a better book for those interested in paradoxes.

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